“Luxury has to redefine itself to stay relevant. By 2022, two-thirds of luxury hospitality will be experience based.”
This forward-looking statement, given by the president of the International Luxury Hotel Association (ILHA), Barak Hirschowitz, and published in ITB’s 2017/2018 trend report, speaks to a major transformation in what we know as luxury hospitality.
Today’s affluent consumers, especially those belonging to the millennial generation, are “global, digital, and discerning,” says Hirschowitz. Instead of products, these hotel guests are looking for memorable moments, experiences that are, among other things, unique and exclusive.
While this shift may pressure luxury brands to innovate their current offerings, it presents hotels not in the luxury category with a tenable opportunity to create experiences that attract a whole new — and highly lucrative — segment of travelers.
Luxury guests tend to be big spenders, frequent travelers, and direct bookers
Luxury travel isn’t just redefining itself. It’s also growing. $1,154 billion by 2022 is what the US-based ILHA is forecasting for growth in the sector. They also tell us that “luxury travelers spend six times more on trips than regular travelers” and take nearly twice as many trips a year on average.
And compared to other types of hotel guests, luxury guests are more likely to book direct as well. The following graph illustrates the online booking behavior of a pool of US leisure travelers:
This trend of luxury guests booking direct with the hotel underscores the importance of having an online direct booking funnel that’s optimized for conversion. Which is actually something that every hotel can — and ideally should — offer their guests (more on that below).
Because to an extent, this shift in luxury hospitality is democratizing the sector. There’s no reason why all hotels can’t take advantage of these changes to grow their direct bookings, boost their revenue, and reduce their commission costs. They just need to know what it is today’s luxury travelers want.
Which brings us to the meat of this article: What do today’s luxury hotel guests want?
In short, imaginative and exceptional hotel offerings. Here are some ideas that demonstrate just how simple and affordable luxury hospitality can now be:
#1 A hotel experience unlike any other
By definition, a unique hotel experience is going to look completely different from one hotel to the next. Some examples of how real hotels have interpreted it: The Towers of Waldorf Astoria offer their guests a rooftop beekeeping experience. Rosewood San Miguel de Allende furbish their Private Residences with easels and art supplies. And one hotel listed on trivago recently promoted a special offer of a giraffe ride for their guests.
To do modern-day luxury right, creativity counts as much as capital. To do modern-day luxury affordably, the trick is establishing the hotel’s unique selling point and using its local context to create an unexpected experience filled with a sense of place and wonder. A simple way to achieve this is by partnering with local businesses that have unique goods and services on offer.
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#2 A one-of-a-kind welcome gift
A surprise-and-delight approach to hospitality, old-school though it may be, is at the heart of today’s transforming standard of hotel luxury. And a one-of-a-kind welcome gift is a first-rate way to surprise and delight guests the moment they step into their hotel room.
When it comes to welcoming luxury guests with a gift, think local, seasonal, and unexpected. Anything that makes the guest feel special and feel that they’re in a special place adds a touch of luxury to the guest experience. Even if it’s just a simple handwritten welcome note on a postcard of the area.
#3 A complimentary library of books and movies
Not every hotel offers (or needs to offer) an in-room on-demand movie selection. And not every guest has (or wants) a Netflix account. Some guests even prefer to read to unwind.
A well-stocked and diverse library of movies and books is a simple, but luxurious, offering that any hotel can cultivate for their guests. A tip from us: Be sure to have movies with subtitles and books in different languages for your international guests.
#4 Refined basic amenities and room designs
Simple can still be splendid. When it comes to appealing to today’s luxury travelers, a hotel’s basic amenities should be both. Our article “The Room Amenities That Matter Most to Your Hotel Guests” provides ideas for how to affordably update a hotel room’s essentials to cater to luxury guests’ expectations.
By the same token, an update to the design of a hotel room doesn’t have to be expensive and can vastly improve a hotel’s chances of catching the eye of luxury guests. “5 Affordable Ways to Improve the Look of Your Hotel Rooms” has some helpful ideas on this.
#5 A seamless digital direct booking journey
Luxury travelers — like all travelers — are increasingly digital travelers who search for and book hotels online. And as we’ve seen, they’re more likely to book direct.
The good news is that all hotels can offer their guests a seamless digital direct booking journey. They just need the right technology. Hotels with a booking engine, for example, can set up a Rate Connect campaign, which allows travelers to move seamlessly from finding their hotel on trivago to booking direct on the hotel’s website.
Compete with booking channels
Readers can find more guest-experience trends in “5 Hotel Trends That Are Transforming the Guest Experience” and more insights into evolving guest expectations in “What’s Motivating Guest Loyalty for Hotels Today?”
As always, we’re happy to hear from you in the comments section below. Feel free to leave questions, concerns, and article requests.
Featured image by Christin Hume on Unsplash